Apocalyptic books like World War Z draw you into so many different disaster scenarios that they make the crazy world that we actually live in seem not quite so bad after all. Not only are they captivating to read, they often portray unbelievable stories of strength, survival and hope like you have never seen before, it is not surprising that they translate so well onto the big screen or form a particularly popular literary genre.
Max Brooks’ eagerly anticipated follow up to his popular survival manual, The Zombie Survival Guide, focuses on the world’s response to a zombie apocalypse. Narrated by an agent working at the United Nations Postwar Commission, World War Z is formed of different accounts; television interviews, diary entries and newspaper articles from around the world.
These accounts detail certain events of the apocalypse and how their countries responded and coped with the plague of zombies along with how they are rebuilding civilisation following humanities eventual victory.
Fortunately, as the apocalypse adventure novel is such a sought after genre there are plenty of books out there like World War Z for you to enjoy, check out the list compiled below.
9 Books like World War Z
The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
No list of apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic novels would be complete without Cormac McCarthy’s haunting, masterful and Pulitzer Prize-winning The Road.
Readers join a father and son travelling through the remnants of America, a burned, ravaged and baron landscape where the sky is dark, grey snow falls and it is cold enough to split rocks.
The father and his son are journeying towards the coast unsure exactly what they will find there, just the hope that it will be better keeps them both moving, along with their indelible bond, as they avoid cannibals and bandits never knowing who they can trust and who truly is a ‘good man.’
It is a profound story of survival, but not just of the son and his father physically trying to survive, it is also about the survival of human kindness and generosity in times of utter devastation.
The Road is emotionally charged and powerful in its reckoning of a world post-apocalypse making it the perfect read for anyone scanning bookshelves for more novels like World War Z.
Already read this haunting novel? Check out our list of more books like The Road.
Bird Box, by Josh Malerman
Josh Malerman’s 2014 innovative and terrifying debut, Bird Box also inspired the 2018 Netflix film of the same name starring Sandra Bullock. Told from the perspective of Malorie, one of few survivors of ‘The Problem’ plaguing the world and plunging everyone into voluntary blindness.
The problem refers to the surge of mysterious creatures which, when seen, cause onlookers to seemingly go mad, brutally attacking others before ultimately killing themselves.
Remaining blindfolded at all times for protection, Malorie and her two travelling companions — a girl and boy of 4 — have to rely on their other senses and train themselves to survive without sight as they prepare for a treacherous journey downriver in search of refuge.
The story is partially told via flashbacks and takes place over three time periods where we learn more about the mysterious creatures and discover what happened to Malorie, how she came to be alone with these two children, why they are only referred to as Girl and Boy and where it is they are going. If you are looking for your next book that is similar to World War Z then reach for Bird Box and prepare to be truly haunted.
The Stand, by Stephen King
As with a lot of books like World War Z, any depiction of an apocalypse is particularly haunting at present given our recent experiences of a pandemic and being in lockdown, but not one book on this list is more affecting in this way than The Stand — a momentous and compelling novel from the king of horror, Stephen King.
First published in 1980, the story unfurls following the accidental unleashing of a genetically engineered, incredibly deadly and contagious super flu into the world which wipes out 99% of the human race within weeks, leaving only a handful of immune, panic-stricken survivors remaining.
This in its own right is particularly riveting, but in true King style, supernatural elements imbue the pages too with divine interference from an angry and vengeful Old Testament God and characters developing superpowers.
The Stand has an intricate plot with lots of characters forming break-away societies warring for ultimate control, it is an ambitious novel and an ambitious read but one that is totally worth it.
Have you read this epic novel already? Check out our list of books like The Stand!
The Passage, by Justin Cronin
We go from zombies in World War Z and onto vampires in Justin Cronin’s The Passage, but not quite vampires as you know them. Cronin’s vampires are a military experiment devised from a virus prevalent in a certain type of bat, initially tested on death row inmates among others it is revealed that the military are engineering a type of weaponised superhuman.
The inmates, however, unexpectedly start developing super strength and some mind-controlling abilities which allows them to make a break for freedom, spreading the virus quickly throughout the rest of the world. Colonies of surviving humans start to form in a bid to fend off further invasion from these superhuman creatures that are constantly on the hunt for fresh blood.
Among one of the infected by the facility is Amy, a young girl whose immunity wasn’t mature enough to react with the virus in the same way – could she possibly be the saviour the world needs?
At a whopping 750 pages and with events spanning more than 90 years, reading The Passage is no mean feat but it is sure to satisfy any reader of books like World War Z.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick
The inspiration behind both Blade Runner films, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? has become a bit of a cult classic which really demonstrates the power and allure of this genre but also its flexibility.
As in Philip K. Dick’s sci-fi novel we are catapulted into the future where the world has been gravely damaged by a nuclear global war and where renegade androids now live among humans.
Bounty Hunter Rick Deckard is the man tasked with the job of finding the rebellious Nexus-6 model androids and ‘retiring’ (killing) them. As most people have evacuated Earth to live in colonies on other planets, finding the androids shouldn’t be too difficult, in theory, except these androids look like humans and are being helped to evade Deckard by another human, John Isidore.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? starts off relatively slowly setting the scene but stay with it because it will soon have you on the edge of your nerves as the story develops with so many unexpected twists and turns a thrilling read for fans of books like World War Z.
Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophesies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Next to feature on this list of books like World War Z is a joint effort from the forces of literary nature Sir Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman with their fantastic novel, Good Omens — a slightly more comical take on an end-of-the-world scenario.
Aziraphale the angel and Crowley the demon are happily living among mortals in England when they learn that a new date for Judgement Day has been announced.
As both have become rather fond of their way of life they decide to try and do something about it rather than wait and see if it is just another hoax (because let’s be honest, it is not like Judgement Days haven’t been prophesized countless times already before to no effect).
With plenty of humorous sub-plots and familiar characters such as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Satan and the Anti-Christ (who has mysteriously been misplaced), Good Omens is hilarious, imaginative and an unputdownable read for anyone wanting an apocalyptic novel that is a bit easier to digest.
Life As We Knew It, by Susan Beth Pfeffer
As with a lot of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic books, we really become invested in the central characters; their struggle, their plight and fight, we will them to overcome the hardship and not give up on hope and this is particularly pertinent with the protagonist Miranda in Susan Beth Pfeffer’s novel, Life As We Knew It.
When a meteor collides with the moon and knocks it closer to earth Miranda, her two brothers and mother must make preparations to survive as worldwide tsunamis begin wiping out coastlines, earthquakes split continents, dormant volcanoes erupt their thick ash clouds blocking out the sun and an arctic winter sets in.
Told via journal entries we learn that this shift in landscape makes growing food impossible, stores are emptied and rations start to dwindle causing Miranda to fear for her family’s future as those people still around her begin to starve.
If you liked the aspect of different media and journals piecing together events in World War Z then Life As We Knew It will be the perfect next read for you.
I am Legend, by Richard Matheson
A plague of infectious vampires cause Robert Neville to be the last remaining man on earth in Richard Matheson’s post-apocalyptic horror novel I am Legend. Everyone else on earth has succumbed to the plague and have turned into vampires who are now on the hunt for blood, they are on the hunt for Neville’s blood.
By day, Neville is the hunter stalking the undead through the ruins of Los Angeles, but by night he becomes the hunted once more and has to barricade himself into his home praying and willing the dawn to come.
The novel is an exploration into human loneliness as we learn about Neville’s life over the years following the outbreak, begging the question of how long can one man continue to live and survive like this?
Since publication in 1954, I am Legend has been incredibly influential to the development of vampire and zombie literature making it a fantastic choice for any reader of novels like World War Z.
It has also been adapted into many popular films including The Last Man on Earth and Night of the Living Dead among others demonstrating it’s significance within the genre.
The War of the Worlds, by H. G. Wells
Ending this list of books like World War Z on a high with H. G. Wells’ novel The War of the Worlds which has been influencing alien invasion stories since its initial publication in 1897, well over a century ago.
Still as gripping and terrifying today as it was all of those years ago, through eye witness narration we learn what happens when an army of aliens lands in England and attempts to seize the country as their own planet has become overpopulated.
These horrifying aliens travel around in giant three-legged machines spreading a poisonous gas and incinerating everything in their path with a heat ray. They seem unstoppable, the whole of London looks as if it will come crashing down as fires rage, metals liquefy, glass melts and water explodes into steam, can anything possibly be a match against these bloodthirsty Martians?
The War of the Worlds is a startlingly vivid exploration into the idea of intelligent life on other planets — a must-read classic that will keep you on the edge of your nerves until the very end.
There you have it, a list of apocalyptic novels just as exciting and imaginative as World War Z depicting humanities attempts at resisting aliens, infectious disease, zombies, vampires, robots…the list of antagonists is endless (as is the list of books), these are just some of my favourites enjoy!
Are you looking for more books like World War Z? Have any recommendations that didn’t make the list? Let us know in the comments!